Chapel Hill News

NC’s teen pregnancy rate continues to decline, to 11%

North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate continued to drop in 2013.

The pregnancy rate for girls ages 15 to 19 dropped 11 percent last year and is less than half where it was in 2000, according to the annual report from the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina.

In 2013, 11,360 girls ages 10 to 19 reported pregnancies compared to 20,019 in 2007, according to the campaign which used numbers from the State Center for Health Statistics. North Carolina has the 20th-highest teen pregnancy rate nationwide.

Pregnancy rates were highest in the state in the late 1980s and early 1990s, although the campaign’s numbers go back only to 1984. Since then, the rate of teen pregnancies has steadily dropped, with a brief surge from 2004 to 2007.

Abortion rates among teens are down as well. Last year, about 19 percent of pregnant teens chose to have an abortion, down from about 40 percent in the late 1980s.

The lower pregnancy rate can be attributed to birth control and more teens waiting to have sex until they are older, said Elizabeth Finley, director of strategic communications with the campaign.

“We feel really great about the numbers and really great about exceeding our goal more quickly than expected,” Finley said. “But when we look at the landscape, we see disparities.”

The rates of teen pregnancies among Hispanic and African-American teenagers are at least double that of white teenage girls statewide. The teen pregnancy rates were 57.9 per 1,000 teenage girls for Hispanics, 49.2 for African Americans and 24.7 for whites, according to the campaign.

Finley says that the campaign aims to look at inequality in sex education and access to care and will study where to focus its efforts.

Of the 75 counties with reportable rates, Orange County had the lowest with 9.6 pregnancies per 1,000 teenagers in 2013. Wake County reported the third-lowest rate at 22.3 per 1,000.

Orange County Health Director Colleen Bridger said parental involvement and comprehensive sex education help prevent teen pregnancy.

“It takes ... access to affordable reproductive health services and intensive work with teen parents to prevent additional teen pregnancies,” Bridger said.